Chinese AIDS Activist No Longer Harassed by Chinese Government
Retired Chinese gynecologist Gao Yaojie, who has publicized the spread of HIV through illegal blood buying in rural areas of the central Chinese province of Henan, is no longer being harassed by the Chinese government for "reveal[ing] state secrets," the Las Vegas Sun reports. Gao "stumbled onto the hidden epidemic" in 1996, when one of her patients tested positive for HIV and she linked the infection to an illegal blood buying industry in Henan. Rural villagers were paid to donate blood, from which "valuable" plasma was removed, and then reinjected with pooled donor samples, permitting them to donate again sooner but facilitating HIV transmissions. As Gao's efforts to publicize the disease and educate villagers drew more local and foreign media attention, health officials became "hostile" and accused Gao of collaborating with "anti-Chinese foreign organizations." Officials at the hospital where she worked in May blocked her passport application to travel to the United States to receive a humanitarian award. But after "years of official attempts to conceal the deadly outbreak," the Chinese government is now "acknowledging" that hundreds of villagers are infected. For example, health officials are opening a clinic in the worst-hit village of Wenlou and are examining blood supplies in all hospitals and donor centers in Henan. While the government has not "broken down" and told Gao she was right about the outbreak, the threats and summons against her have ceased. Gao said, "It's a good start that the government is beginning to acknowledge this problem and take action against it. I am not sure how effective the crackdown will be or if the problem will just reappear after the campaign is over, but at least it's much better than before when the officials did nothing at all" (Las Vegas Sun, 8/24).
Continued Coverage of Chinese Government's HIV Acknowledgment
The Chinese government yesterday announced that China is facing a "very serious" AIDS epidemic, with a 67% increase in new HIV infections within the first six months of this year compared to the first half of 2000. This story was featured in yesterday's Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report and is covered today in new sources throughout the country. Articles in the Los Angeles Times, AP/Nando Times, New York Times, Agence France-Presse/Washington Times and Washington Post are available online.